Sunday, December 21, 2014


Will Xmas carols defeat the Left?

Just a small initial point:  Is my use above of "X" to represent Christ disrespectful?  It is not.  It is in fact very respectful indeed.  The Gospels were written in Greek and the first letter of Christ's name in Greek is the letter Chi -- which is normally written the same as our letter X.

And Greek letters are not exactly unknown in educated circles to this day.  Statisticians, for instance, will all be familiar with the statistic "Chi squared" -- a way of testing the statistical significance of frequencies.

And there are still some of us who work their way through the New Testament in Greek.   I actually own three recensions of the Greek New Testament:  Griesbach, Westcott & Hort and a 1958 revision of  Nestle.  So my very occasional excursions into the original Greek are well supported.

And the early Christians made much use of Chi.  They used it to represent Christ and closed one end of it to make it look like a fish when they were being persecuted.  So the use of Chi has a most honorable background.

And to this day, some Christians (mostly Anglicans in my observation) do still use a fish to represent their faith.

But I did not intend this post to be about ancient Greek so let me get on to the small but perhaps important point that I originally wanted to make:

When I first visited California in the mid-70s I arrived, for some long-forgotten reason, in early December.  So I was delighted to have Xmas carols piped at me from any retail outlet that I entered.  I gather that that pleasant world is long gone now, however.  Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and Frosty the Snowman are about it these days -- which must be very boring.

And the Left have some logic behind their suppression of Xmas carols.  Most of the carols are very devout.  They in fact largely tell the basic story of Christianity:  That Jesus was God incarnate.  I guess that people rarely pay full attention to the words of songs but to the extent that they are exposed to Xmas carols, people will learn rather a lot about basic Xian doctrine.  The sheer beauty of the traditional Xmas carols will often get them past Leftist censorship.

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Some medical news is so crazy that I just have to laugh

An excerpt below from a newspaper report of some experiments.  The report was headed: "Is Ibuprofen the key to a longer life? Study finds it may provide 12 extra years of good health".  The idea that you can generalize from yeast cells, worms and flies to   human beings is of course absurd.  Even mouse studies often don't generalize to people.  Human beings are an unusually long-lived species so already have in their makeup most things that can prolong life

To those with a headache, it already works miracles. But ibuprofen could also hold the key to a long and healthy life.  In a series of experiments, the popular painkiller extended the life of yeast, worms and flies by around 15 per cent.

What is more, the extra years were healthy ones.

In human terms, this would equate to an extra 12 years of good quality life. Put another way, people would be in good health for longer.

In one of the experiments, worms given ibuprofen throughout life were healthy for longer.

SOURCE

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Painting the Picture of Male Unemployment

The New York Times summed up what conservatives have said for years -- government welfare disincentivizes work, the social fabric of our nation is strongest when fathers head the household, and flooding the labor market with low-skilled and low-educated individuals through illegal immigration is bad for Americans currently out of work.

Seriously. Yes, they did.

Painted on the debate canvas is a recognizable face -- the unemployed male during his prime working years. The Times' piece declared, "Working, in America, is in decline. The share of prime-age men -- those 25 to 54 years old -- who are not working has more than tripled since the late 1960s, to 16 percent." Perhaps the most important sentence in the report, however, is this: "Many men, in particular, have decided that low-wage work will not improve their lives, in part because deep changes in American society have made it easier for them to live without working."

Welcome to Barack Obama's America.

The palette of metaphorical colors used by the Left to cast this grim, but real, image ranged from the gray of "foreign" competition and "technological advances," to the pale pink of a massive list of government programs that include safety-net welfare and job training, to the cyanotic blue of men avoiding marriage and fatherhood.

The pronouncement that "foreign competition" harms the workforce -- in this case, unemployed males, 85% of whom were without a college degree -- is spot on. Hence, the absurdity of allowing Obama's amnesty to stand. His action will permit five million illegal immigrants to compete in the already flooded low-skilled labor market. The ones hurt most are young blacks, but blacks are such dependable Democrat constituents that Obama knows he can get away with it.

As for that 85% of those surveyed who don't hold a four-year degree, the availability of job training and educational attainment is vast. In 2011, the Government Accountability Office estimated that nine federal agencies housed 47 separate job training and educational programs.

The obvious question has to be asked: Which is easier to get, 99 weeks (just five weeks short of two years) of unemployment checks, or to enroll in an education program to obtain a certificate in training and finish a four-year degree?

An individual must stay competitive in a tightening labor market. Refining and advancing education and skills is no longer a K-12 proposition. Frankly, individuals can't even expect a four-year degree to keep them competitive absent some special circumstance or highly specialized field.

There are ample options to obtain the training and education necessary to grow into technologically driven occupations. Parents, guidance counselors, existing employers and the government must be consistent in message -- be a lifetime learner to stay employed. But that's not the easy road; unemployment and food stamps are.

The New York Times observed other societal changes, such as that "the decline of marriage ... means fewer men provide for children." The traditional family places worth on the roles of a father as spiritual leader, model in his work ethic and character, and his responsibility to meet the needs of his family. But with so-called "progressive" change in the definition of marriage, the American male is ... liberated.

Finally, there's an element the NYT didn't mention: shame.

Reach back into records and appreciate that in the 1903 annual report of the U.S. Bureau of Labor an able-bodied adult who was not working was documented as "Idle." Further, this "idleness" was categorized "by causes." Drunkenness, accident, strike, unable to get work, slack work, and bad weather were among 64 identifiers that captured the reasons for unemployment.

Today, it's not your fault if you drop out of high school or college; it's not your fault if you miss the opportunity to get additional education and training offered at work; it's not your fault you never save a penny, but have the latest electronics available. You see, when you're a victim of the big-bad system, there is no shame.

The Left -- and some of the "moderate middle" -- offers a life portrait of just under two years of unemployment checks, an opportunity to join the almost 50 million on food stamps, with hope that the government will increase the minimum wage on occasion to assist in one's embrace as a member of the underclass. Mediocrity is the message for the masses.

By contrast, the Right paints a picture of innovation and competition with individuals who pursue skills training and education, who embrace technology and competition. The painting frequently includes a spouse and family to strengthen and support, and a male head-of-household who has the ability to dream and imagine a better day for his family. Yet, that portrait is only completed by the individual, not by the nanny state. It's a picture of Liberty.

Now, you pick your palette: pale pastels or bold colors.

SOURCE

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Americans are 40% poorer than before the recession

The Great Recession is officially over, but Americans are still 40% poorer today than they were in 2007, the year before the global financial crisis.

The net worth of American families — the difference between the values of their assets, including homes and investments, and liabilities — fell to $81,400 in 2013, down slightly from $82,300 in 2010, but a long way off the $135,700 in 2007, according to a new report released on Friday by the nonprofit think-tank Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C.

“The Great Recession, fueled by the crises in the housing and financial markets, was universally hard on the net worth of American families,” the report found.

There is also a dramatic disparity in net worth between races. The median net worth of white households was $141,900 in 2013, down 26% since 2007. It declined by 42% to $13,700 over the same period for Hispanic households and fell by 43% to $11,000 for African-American households. One theory for the wealth gap: White households are more likely than other ethnicities to own stocks directly or indirectly through retirement accounts, the Pew report said.

The wealth of most Americans has stood still. In November 2014, the average weekly wage was $853 versus $833 for November 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But things are improving somewhat when it comes to housing. Nationwide, only 8% of borrowers have homes that are underwater as of October 2014, down from a peak of 35%, or 18 million homes, in February 2011, according to Black Knight Financial Services in Jacksonville, Fla., which tracks mortgage performance. But 8% still impacts 4 million homes.

Stagnant wages and rising property prices don’t bode well for first-time buyers without wealthy parents. The homeownership rate for non-Hispanic white households fell to 73.9% in 2013 from 75.3% in 2010, Pew found, and fell to 47.4% in 2013 from 50.6% in 2010 for minorities. It takes an average of 12.5 years to save up a 20% down payment — the usual requirement by banks — with a personal savings rate of 5.6%, according to real-estate firm RealtyTrac.

SOURCE

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Should Profiling Be Banned?

By Walter E. Williams

Last week, the Obama administration announced new curbs on racial profiling by federal law enforcement. Before deciding whether this is good or bad policy, we might try to develop a description/definition of racial profiling or any other kind of profiling.

A good definition of profiling in general is the use of an easily observed physical characteristic as a guess for some other, difficult-to-observe characteristic. The reason people profile is that information is costly and they seek methods to economize on information costs. One way to do that is through profiling.

Imagine a chief of police in a city where there has been a rash of automobile hubcap thefts and he's trying to capture the culprits. Should he have his officers stake out and investigate residents of senior citizen homes? What about spending resources investigating men and women 40 or older?

I would imagine that he would have greater success in capturing the culprits by focusing most of his resources on younger people — and particularly on young men. Doing so would more likely lead to the capture of the culprits because hubcap theft is a young man's game. My question to you is whether you'd bring charges against the police chief because he used age and sex profiling — and didn't investigate seniors and middle-aged adults.

Some years ago, a Washington, D.C., taxicab commissioner, who is black, issued a safety advisory urging D.C.'s 6,800 predominantly black cabbies to refuse to pick up "dangerous looking" passengers. Cabbies in D.C. and other cities often bypass black males for fear of robbery or of being taken to an unsafe neighborhood. We seriously misunderstand the motives of a taxi driver who racially profiles and passes up a black customer if we use racism as the sole explanation for his behavior.

The reality is that race and other behavioral characteristics are correlated, including criminal behavior. That fact does not dispel the insult, embarrassment, anger and hurt a law-abiding black person might feel when being stopped by police, being watched in stores, being passed up by taxi drivers, standing at traffic lights and hearing car door locks activated, or being refused delivery by merchants who fear for their safety in his neighborhood.

It is easy to direct one's anger at the taxi driver or the merchant. However, the behavior of taxi drivers and owners of pizza restaurants cannot be explained by a dislike of dollars from black hands. A better explanation is they might fear for their lives. The true villains, to whom anger should be directed, are the tiny percentage of people in the black community who prey on both blacks and whites and have made black synonymous with crime.

There's little-noticed racial profiling in medicine. Some racial and ethnic groups have a higher incidence of mortality from various diseases than the national average. Mortality rates for cardiovascular diseases are approximately 30 percent higher among black adults than among white adults. Cervical cancer rates are almost five times higher among Vietnamese women in the U.S. than among white women. The Pima Indians of Arizona have the highest known diabetes rate in the world. Prostate cancer is nearly twice as common among black men as it is among white men.

Would one condemn a medical practitioner for advising greater screening and monitoring of black men for cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer or greater screening and monitoring for cervical cancer among Vietnamese-American women or the same for diabetes among Pima Indians? It surely would be racial profiling — using race as an indicator of a higher probability of some other characteristic.

God would never do profiling of any sort, because God is omniscient. We humans lack that quality and must depend upon sometimes-crude substitutes for finding out things. By the way, my attempting to explain profiling doesn't require one to take a position for or against it any more than the attempt to explain gravity requires one to be for or against gravity

SOURCE

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For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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Friday, December 19, 2014



WHY do the old swing Right?

Back in 1985, I reported, in one of the academic journals, the results of a large body of attitude surveys that showed what beliefs were characteristic of older people.  Both in what they favoured and in what they rejected, old people were shown to be very conservative.

Most people do swing rightwards as they get older, with the best-known examples being, of course, Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill.  Reagan was even a union official in his early days and yet became arguably the most beloved conservative leader of all time.

And there are other examples.  The person may not always change party loyalties but their views may evolve within that loyalty.  A good example comes from my home state of Queensland, in Australia.  Following is a brief excerpt from his Wikipedia entry:

Edward Michael (Ned) Hanlon (1887 - 1952) was Premier of Queensland from 1946 to 1952. After leaving school, he worked in the railways, and soon became a union official. In the 1912 Brisbane General Strike he played a prominent part as a militant....  Over the years Hanlon's outlook mellowed, and he shifted to the political right. He ended up, as [Labor Party] Premier, sending the police to suppress union demonstrations during the 1948 Queensland Railway strike.

So, again, why?   It couldn't be simpler: The essence of conservatism is caution.  And underlying that caution is a perception that the world is an unpredictable place.  So change has to take place in small steps if its objectives are to be achieved.  Massive changes such as Obamacare are to be avoided in case large unforeseen negative consequences emerge -- consequences  of the sort that emerged rapidly in the case of Obamacare.

And as we get older that unpredictability of the world is forced upon us -- and that makes us cautious.  Experience conservatizes us.  And that is why the young tend to be Leftist:  They lack experience.  Shielded by their parents, they have yet to realize that the world is full of surprises -- many of which are unpleasant.  As the great Scottish poet Robert Burns put it so memorably (and prophetically):

"The best-laid plans o' mice and men gang aft agley

and leave us nought but grief and pain for promised joy".

Apologies for quoting the less-known next line of the verse. But it is undoubtedly apposite.

The transformation wrought by experience is only part of the reason for the differences I found, however. The world has undergone large changes in the last couple of hundred years or so, with a big swing towards socialism in many countries in the middle of the 20th century, ending in a decisive swing worldwide back to broadly free-market economic policies after that.

The large economic upswing   -- greatly increased prosperity -- that began with the abandonment of socialist economic policies in the Reagan/Thatcher years, however, had consequences as well.  As economic concerns became less pressing for most of the population, the policies and attitudes that accompanied economic struggle became less pressing too.  People could afford to reduce greatly the strategies they saw as needed to put bread on the table.  So there was an upsurge in permissiveness all-round.  Survival was no longer a harsh master.  So social (non-economic) attitudes liberalized  -- reaching rather absurd lengths as time went by -- as with the idolization of homosexuality in the early 21st century.

So the age-related attitude differences noted in my research also partly reflected the era in which the individuals concerned were born.  People who grew up in times of economic stringency acquired attitudes appropriate to that.  Homosexuality, for instance, had to be anathematized because it threatened the survival of the family.  And the family is of course the original social security safety net.

And so people who grew up in times of economic ease formed the more permissive attitudes allowed by that.  People acquire attitudes in their youth which tend to last for the rest of their life  -- unless powerfully contra-indicated by life-experiences  -- which is the sad fate of many who enter adulthood with socialistic ideas.

A FOOTNOTE:  The USA is a very successful country economically and yet also has large pockets of social conservatism.  Why?  It's at least partly because many Americans don't FEEL economically secure.  And why is that?  Because the only way many Americans can find to keep their families reasonably safe is to engage in "white flight".  They need to get away from the extraordinarily high rate of violent crime that pervades black or partly black neighborhoods.

But the only presently legal (post-segregation) way to get away from such neighborhoods is to move to the more expensive suburbs that blacks can rarely afford.  And that takes money, rather a lot of money.  So Americans are economic strivers at a huge rate.  The pursuit of money is America's biggest religion.  It's a great pity that their society makes Americans so unrelaxed

The truth of all that can be seen in Australia.  Australia's largest non-European minority is hard-working and law-abiding East Asians  (mostly Han Chinese) -- at about 5% of the population.  And Australia is also an economically prosperous place with very conservative economic policies.  Australian Federal governments even bring down surplus budgets on some occasions!  Contrast that with the trillions of debt run up by the Obama administration.   So a prosperous but safe country should have a very relaxed population.  And that is exactly what Australia is known for.

Apropos of that, I remember reading about 30 years ago (in "The Bulletin", I think) that Australia had at that stage the world's highest proportion of half-millionaires.  Once they had accumulated that much, smart  Australians tended to hop off the treadmill and retire to more recreational pursuits.  Americans, by contrast, stayed on the treadmill for much longer -- because money is at least part of their religion.  They reject St. Paul's view that the love of money is the root of all evil.  They know money as the root of all safety.  Even in their churches, Americans are often subjected to a prosperity gospel that would do Calvin proud. -- JR.

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An American bureaucracy at work

In June, NASA finished work on a huge construction project here in Mississippi: a $349 million laboratory tower, designed to test a new rocket engine in a chamber that mimicked the vacuum of space.

Then, NASA did something odd.  As soon as the work was done, it shut the tower down. The project was officially “mothballed” — closed up and left empty — without ever being used.

The reason for the shutdown: The new tower — called the A-3 test stand — was useless. Just as expected. The rocket program it was designed for had been canceled in 2010.

But, at first, cautious NASA bureaucrats didn’t want to stop the construction on their own authority. And then Congress — at the urging of a senator from Mississippi — swooped in and ordered the agency to finish the tower, no matter what.

The result was that NASA spent four more years building something it didn’t need. Now, the agency will spend about $700,000 a year to maintain it in disuse.

“What the hell are they doing? I mean, that’s a lot of people’s hard-earned money,” said David Forshee, who spent 18 months as the general foreman for the pipefitters who helped build the tower. Like other workmen, he had taken pride in this massive, complicated project — only to learn that it was in mothballs.

“It’s heartbreaking to know that, you know, you thought you’d done something good,” Forshee said. “And all you’ve done is go around in a damn circle, like a dog chasing his tail.”

SOURCE

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The VA is a bureaucracy too

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provided lawmakers with misleading and inaccurate information when they first detailed the number of veterans who were harmed by long wait times, according to a new report by the Office of Inspector General.

The VA released a “fact sheet” in April 2014 that summarized an internal, system-wide review of unresolved consults or additional requests for services that remained “open or active” after 90 days.

The review was carried out over the course of two years. According to the summary it evaluated “all consults since 1999” and identified 23 deaths of veterans related to delays in gastrointestinal care.

In a report released on Monday, investigators now say the “fact sheet” was filled with misleading information that raises questions as to whether or not the cases were ever “appropriately reviewed or resolved.”

“By early May 2014, when facilities were expected to have completed their reviews, the number of unresolved consults had decreased considerably,” the report notes. “However, because [Veteran Health Administration] did not implement appropriate controls, we found it lacks reasonable assurance that facilities appropriately reviewed and resolved consults; closed consults only after ensuring veterans had received the requested services, when appropriate; and, where consult delays contributed to patient harm, notified patients as required by VHA policy.”

Additionally, inspectors found that “several key statements related to the scope and results of the [agency’s] review were misleading or incorrect,” including things as basic as the stated timeframe.

Instead of reviewing cases open since 1999, inspectors found that facility managers were told to “review consults that had been unresolved for more than 90 days but less than 5 years.” If a case “had been unresolved for more than 5 years” the managers could “close those without review.”

The instructions meant that the VA only reviewed open consults beginning in September of 2007, eight years later than what they wrote in their “fact sheet.”

Miller said in a statement the report shows that cases unresolved for more than five years were “simply closed out … en masse and without proper review,” and VA officials made “undeniably false” claims that their review went back to 1999.  “We may never know the actual number of veterans affected by gaps in the VA system that existed for years,” Miller said.

SOURCE

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Jonathan Gruber Thinks Like Most Liberals: You Are Too Stupid to Run Your Own Life

Key Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber has been under a hot spotlight recently for disparaging comments he made about his fellow citizens.

In a series of videos taken at various conferences and lectures between 2010 and 2013, Gruber claimed that the effects of Obamacare had to be hidden from Americans because of “the stupidity of the American voter.” The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor said that “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage” in writing such legislation and likened its critics to “my adolescent children.”

    Gruber was echoing a common sentiment among the American Left: You are too stupid to run your own life.

Adding, well, injury to the insult, it’s been discovered that Gruber received almost $6 million in taxpayer dollars for his various services in designing and consulting on Obamacare.

This rolling disgrace culminated Tuesday in a particularly stern hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which gave the penitent Gruber a thorough dressing-down.

Ouch.

While I hate to disagree with the formidable Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.,  I think Gruber should be given a medal for honesty!

Don’t get me wrong: Gruber’s erstwhile opinions about his fellow Americans are despicable. But he was only echoing a common sentiment among the American Left: You are too stupid to run your own life. It’s just rare that they tell us directly.

The attitude of the Washington political establishment in general—and liberal elites in particular—is that Americans aren’t smart enough to make their own decisions. The public must be cajoled, misled, threatened and flat-out lied to in order to achieve the greatest good.

Take, for example, Gruber’s assessment of the tax/fee argument at the heart of Obamacare’s passage and later Supreme Court fight:

    This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO [the Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Ok, so it was written to do that.

This is absolutely true. Everyone in Washington—on both sides of the aisle—knows that this was a key maneuver in getting Obamacare passed. The scandalous thing here is not what Gruber said, but that he dared to admit it.

He follows in a grand tradition of progressives who posture themselves as champions of the common man, only to realize that the common man doesn’t necessarily share the same goals. Thus, regular Americans must be duped into acting a certain way. It’s for their own good, don’t you know!

This is a profoundly undemocratic mindset but all too common amongst those in power. Earlier this year the Associated Press recognized the Obama administration as the least transparent in history. This administration has prosecuted whistleblowers, attacked journalists and had the IRS put the squeeze on activist groups. It excuses this behavior with a “father knows best” attitude.

If you assume that your political opponents merely “cling to guns or religion” out of bitterness, it’s much easier to rationalize impinging upon the First and Second Amendments. If you’re convinced that folks couldn’t possibly live a healthy lifestyle on their own, you end up micromanaging their lunches or downsizing their beverages.

You might even be tempted to mandate their healthcare options.

Thinking you know what’s best for the American people—better than they do, in fact—leads to a far greater violation of their best interests: taking away their freedom to decide for themselves.

Unfortunately, there are a lot more people in government who think like Jonathan Gruber.

SOURCE

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For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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Thursday, December 18, 2014



Cromnibus in review

Congressional passage of the $1.1 trillion CRomnibus (part omnibus, part continuing resolution) package last weekend may have prevented a government shutdown, but it created a variety of divisions between and among Republicans and Democrats that could flare up in grand style in the next Congress.

The package funds most of the government through fiscal year 2015, pulling together 11 appropriations bills that cover many areas, except the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded only until Feb. 27. Much of the spending adheres to budget caps put in place last year, with additional emergency spending that falls outside the caps – including $64 billion for overseas military operations such as the fight against ISIL and $5.4 billion to combat Ebola.

Republicans achieved their objectives in some areas. The Dodd-Frank financial regulation law was partially relaxed to allow banks to directly engage in derivatives trading. Some school nutrition standards pushed by First Lady Michelle Obama were also rolled back, in large part because school districts are having serious trouble complying with the new regulations – not to mention the near-mutiny among students. Another provision loosens contribution limits for national political parties. The Democrats balked at this provision, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling it “egregious,” but they’ll be perfectly happy with it when leftist one-percenters pour out their money for the 2016 election.

Democrats also won some things in the bill as well. ObamaCare funding remains intact at current levels, despite the long history of GOP threats to defund it. The Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortions, was renewed, but since ObamaCare calls for funding of abortions that amendment remains pretty much moot.

One bright spot for free enterprise was in the extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which puts off for another year a bureaucratic free-for-all that would blitz online retailers with new taxes, regulations and paperwork. If Congress has any sense at all, it will enact a clean, stand-alone extension of the act in January.

There was rancor among Democrats over passage of the bill because of its rollback of Dodd-Frank and the relaxed political party funding. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led the charge against the CRomnibus from the liberal side, but she was swamped by the larger Democrat contingent eager to pass the bill. Her actions may not have amounted to much, but her popularity saw a boost. She is increasingly considered a viable alternative presidential candidate to Hillary Clinton, complicating the latter’s second White House run.

Warren found an unusual ally in her fight against the spending package in Republican Ted Cruz of Texas, if for an entirely different reason. Along with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Cruz hoped to derail the package by introducing a symbolic point-of-order vote condemning the unconstitutionality of Barack Obama’s executive action on illegal aliens.

“If you believe President Obama’s executive order was unconstitutional, vote yes,” Cruz told his colleagues. “If you think the president’s executive order is constitutional, vote no.” Well, 74 senators believed the latter – or at least wouldn’t admit the former – among them the full Republican leadership.

As he did with his box-canyon shutdown strategy last year, Cruz managed to draw significant ire from his GOP colleagues. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said, “Suffice it to say, I’m not happy with the strategy [Cruz] has come up with. I think it’s totally counterproductive.” Cruz has been accused of grandstanding for the sake of his own popularity before, but many conservatives also praised him for standing his ground.

Did Cruz’s actions cause more trouble than they were worth? The temporary funding of DHS means the immigration issue will be revisited early next year anyway. Cruz and Lee were faulted for outgoing Majority Leader Harry Reid’s pushing cloture on a series of stalled nominees because the procedural vote allowed Reid to turn to other matters. That’s a stretch, considering that executive and judicial nominations were going to be on the calendar anyway at some point between now and the end of the session. Remember, Reid didn’t trigger the nuclear option for nothing.

The real reason that Cruz’s actions caused such a stir is probably best encapsulated by the fact that senators' weekend holiday plans had to be put on hold. But as Hot Air’s Jazz Shaw wrote, “The fact that any of them had to show up on Saturday and couldn’t head home from work two weeks before Christmas and stay there until early January isn’t exactly tugging at my heartstrings.”

Republican and Democrat leaders in the House and Senate must be suffering tennis elbow after all the self-congratulatory pats on the back for passing the CRomnibus. Republican voters may be asking themselves, though, why the GOP went for a long-term budget deal when they could have just passed a 60-day continuing resolution and negotiated a full budget package from a position of strength in January.

SOURCE

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Media Struggle to Save Obama, Not the Country



A story in Thursday's Washington Post about establishing Obama's "foreign policy legacy" goes a long way toward explaining why the Senate Democrats and the media have been trashing the Bush administration's very productive enhanced interrogation program as "torture."

Titled "Obama's foreign policy plans collide with wars abroad and politics at home [1]," the story by Greg Jaffe and Juliet Eilperin made it clear that CIA director John Brennan's defense of the agency had thwarted Obama's plan "to move the country beyond what he [Obama] has described as the fearful excesses of the post-9/11 era." While Obama has banned what he calls "torture," he has failed to close the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (Gitmo), established by the Bush administration to house terrorist suspects. Other problems outlined in the Post article include the continuing war in Afghanistan and a new war in Iraq and Syria against ISIS.

What Obama calls "torture" is what the media call "torture." If you needed any more proof of a pro-Obama media bias, just look at how regularly the personalities on CNN, supposedly more moderate than MSNBC, have adopted his terms of the debate. This is the media's way of saying that Obama was right and that it's good he has banned this way of getting information from terrorists. Never mind that Obama's way of murder through drone strikes is decidedly more "harsh." Bush grilled them, Obama kills them.

Without a foreign policy "legacy" of some kind, Obama's two terms will look like a failure and the Democrats will be doomed in 2016.

Domestically, his only real "accomplishment" at this point looks like the Eric Holder policy of suspending enforcement of federal marijuana laws. This will be a "legacy" of interest to fellow pothead members of Obama's "Choom Gang" in Hawaii, and the emerging cannabis industry.  But it's doubtful most people will appreciate this historic development.

Obama's signature "accomplishment" in domestic affairs, Obamacare, has been exposed as a massive fraud and deception. According to a new CBS News poll, race relations have dramatically deteriorated under the first black president. It's true he is moving forward unconstitutionally with amnesty for illegal aliens. But House Republicans are promising to do something about that next year. The economy is still lackluster. So foreign policy is really his only hope of doing anything positive, and he's running into the facts of life there, too. The terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans is only one part of his legacy. The legacy of that attack hurts both Obama and Hillary Clinton, his former Secretary of State and likely 2016 Democratic candidate. And it's doubtful that an Iran with nuclear weapons would qualify as a positive foreign policy legacy for Obama, either.

One can suppose that Obama will try to claim he was the one who got Osama bin Laden. But Brennan made it clear on Thursday that the enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) from the Bush-era played a role in killing the terrorist kingpin. Brennan said, "It is our considered view that the detainees who were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques provided information that was useful and was used in the ultimate operation to go against bin Laden. Again, intelligence information from the individuals who were subjected to EITs provided information that was used in that. Again, I am not going to attribute that to the use of the EITs; just going to state as a matter of fact, the information that they provided was used."

What Brennan is saying is that he cannot pinpoint with any degree of accuracy that a particular form of interrogation led to the terrorists divulging certain information. That's because nobody was taking precise notes on when terrorist X or Y said one thing or another at any particular time in the interrogation process. But the record is clear that the EITs contributed to the terrorists getting to the point where they decided to spill their guts.

CNN, which is increasingly trying to sound like MSNBC, headlined the Brennan news conference as "Brennan: No Proof Harsh Tactics Led to Useful Info." How can his phrase that "intelligence information from the individuals who were subjected to EITs provided information that was used" to get bin Laden be interpreted as "proof" that it wasn't useful? CNN was lying. CNN gave the opposite impression of what he actually said.

Before he held his news conference, Brennan met with Obama and was probably instructed to finesse his language somewhat so that a certain amount of ambiguity could be left in some minds. CNN and other media tried to take advantage of that for Obama's sake. Still, Brennan's statement was a vindication of the Bush policy. That means that any attempt by Obama to claim credit for the death of bin Laden will ring hollow. There goes his foreign policy legacy.

These facts help explain the desperation of the media and why they have adopted Obama's rhetoric on "torture." They must figure that if they use the term often enough, many people will assume that the techniques were, in fact, torture. In order to drive that point home, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News used the Brennan news conference to mention some of the techniques. She referred to "waterboarding, near drowning, slamming people against the wall, hanging them in stress positions, confining them in small boxes or coffins, threatening them with drills, waving guns around their head as they are blindfolded..."

She could have mentioned the horrible deaths suffered by those in the World Trade Center or the Pentagon or Flight 93 on 9/11. She could have mentioned the 9/11 jumpers-the people who jumped from the towers rather than be burned to death.

But Mitchell didn't think it was worth mentioning any of that.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper have been fixated by a phrase in the Senate Democratic report on "rectal rehydration." Tapper called it a form of torture. In fact, it's a medical procedure to keep the terrorists alive when they resist sustenance. Would Tapper have preferred that the terrorists be allowed to die? Then the program would have come in for even stronger criticism. This goes to show that all of this discussion is just another attempt to tarnish the Bush presidency and make Obama look good by comparison. Tapper said he was dumbfounded by the talk of "rectal rehydration."

No, he was just dumb.

Obama, the Senate Democrats and the media look foolish and unpatriotic. It looks like they are deliberately playing into the hands of America's enemies in order to score partisan political points. Obama has abandoned proven techniques to get information from, and about, terrorists and has adopted in their place a policy of killing the terrorists and their families through drone strikes that don't yield any intelligence data at all. How on earth does this make any sense?

From an objective point of view, does a Hellfire missile hitting a human being look more or less "harsh" than waving a gun over someone's head, turning on a drill, or pouring water on a terrorist?

The answer should be obvious to anyone with half a brain. But most of our media are so determined to save Obama's presidency that they can't think clearly.

The Post and other media are desperate to construct a "legacy" for America's first black president. The real concern should be saving the country, not Obama's presidency.

SOURCE

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Another example of the famous "fact-checking" that the MSM claim they do

Sixteen-year-old Mohammed Islam wants you to think he's a big shot. On his website, Ettaz Financial, he wears a pair of fogged-over glasses, expression serious, sporting a red tie on a snowy day. The New York high-school junior says he got interested in the financial industry "at the tender age of eight", quickly fell into the third-rate world of penny stocks before graduating to the futures market after finding "a love for risk and volatility". How much has he made? Millions, he said. His net worth has soared into the "high eight figures".

The world is filled with teenagers like Mo Islam, who now says he never made a dime on the stock market. They play fast and loose with facts. But they don't usually get the treatment Islam just got in Sunday's issue of New York Magazine.

The article, reported and written by staff writer Jessica Pressler, begins with a rumour. Someone - it's unspecified who - said Mo had pocketed $US72 million ($87.6 million) by trading penny stocks. "An unbelievable amount of money for anyone, not least a high school student, but as far as rumours go, this one seemed legit," Pressler wrote. The original headline: "A Stuyvesant Senior Made $US72M Trading Stocks on His Lunch Break."

Coming on the heels of Rolling Stone's disastrous story of a University of Virginia gang rape, though nowhere near as serious in its consequences, the story unravelled almost as quickly as it went viral. While the New York Post, the Daily Mail and the Guardian did their versions, New York Magazine's was getting pounded in its comments section: "How dumb do you have to [be] to believe that this kid made $US72 million trading stocks during lunch?"

SOURCE

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For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014



Some notes about the Sydney siege by a now dead Muslim nut on AUSTRALIAN POLITICS

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Genes can be to blame for violent behaviour

But it's all caused by "poverty", Leftists say.  They even said it about the 9/11 attacks.  It took several months of people telling them that Osama bin Laden was actually a billionaire before they started showing signs of reality contact

You may not have been born a criminal, but a combination of genes and environment could control your fate when it comes to anti-social behaviour.  This is according to a recent study which found that experiences, such as divorce and sexual abuse, could affect gene expressions that control a person's predisposition to delinquency.

The study used a survey of 1,337 students aged 17 or 18 in Västmanland, Sweden, who anonymously completed questionnaires reporting on their behaviour.

As well as their behaviour, they spoke about past family conflict, experiences of sexual abuse, and the quality of their relationship with their parents.

They also provided a sample of saliva from which the researchers extracted DNA. One of the genes examined was Monoamine oxidase A (MAOA).

This gene is a key enzyme which breaks down and releases energy in brain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. The transmitter be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness

'About 25 per cent of Caucasian men carry the less active variant of MAOA,' explained Professor Sheilagh Hodgins, a researcher at the University of Montreal.  'Among them, those who experience physical abuse in childhood are more likely than those who are not abused to display serious anti-social behaviour from childhood through adulthood.

'Among females it is the high activity variant of the MAOA gene that interacts with adversity in childhood to increase the likelihood of anti-social behaviour.'

Another gene examined was BDNF, which impacts neuronal plasticity. This refers to the brain cells' ability to reorganise pathways and connections throughout our lives.

'The low expressing variants of BDNF are carried by approximately 30 per cent of individuals and some previous studies had shown that this variant was associated with aggressive behaviour if carriers were exposed to aggressive peers,' said Professor Hodgins.

The third gene variant studied was the serotonin transporter 5-HTTLPR, which is carried by approximately 20 per cent of individuals.

'Among carriers of this low activity variant, those exposed to adversity in childhood are more likely than those who are not to display antisocial and aggressive behaviour,' said Professor Hodgins.

Overall, the study found that the three genetic variants interacted with each other and with family conflict and sexual abuse to increase the likelihood of delinquency.

'Among carriers of the low activity variants of all three genes, those exposed to family conflict or sexual abuse or both reported high levels of delinquency while those who reported a positive and warm relationship with their parents reported little or no delinquency,' said Professor Hodgins.

'These findings add to those from other studies to show that genes affect the brain, and thereby behaviour, by altering sensitivity to the environment,' Professor Hodgins said.

SOURCE

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Fat Class Warfare

There was a time when fat was in and thin was out. Obesity was the privilege of wealth and being thin meant being poor. In simpler societies, before slumming became a romantic pose, there was nothing attractive about not having enough to eat.

To be fat was to be part of the leisure class. Thin meant you were on the road to the poorhouse or to consumption, which meant your body was being consumed, not that you were the one doing the consuming.

Then agriculture was revolutionized and the values flipped. No one in the West was starving to death and the poorest man could still grow fat. By the time the social programs kicked in, weight no longer meant leisure.

With packaged foods widely available and jobs shifting from the factory to the desk, it was entirely possible to work hard and get fat.

On the other side of the aisle, exercise meant leisure time. The standard was set by movie stars who struggled to meet unrealistic standards because they had the time and disposable income to do it.

Fat no longer meant upper class gentry. Instead it meant lower class peasant. As with art, the widespread availability turned minimalism, and eventually the worthless and overpriced, into class signifiers. Conspicuous consumption of that which was widely available was lower class.

The overflowing table made way for micro portions and exotic but barely edible foods. Thin was in on the plate and the waistline.
In many Third World countries where feudalism never ended, the values never flipped. Instead of anorexia, teenage girls suffer from being force fed to make them more marriageable. The wealthy are fat and the feasts at the top never end.

In the West, weight stands in for class, at a time when explicit classism has become politically incorrect. When Europeans sneer at how fat Americans are, and American coastal elites sneer at the rest of the country for being fat, it's a class putdown.

And no one traffics in class putdowns like the left.

Liberalism has become an engine of class repression, with the super-rich pushing down the rich and the rich liberal undermining the middle class. Its regulatory regime limits social mobility and locks in class privileges even while spewing rhetoric about these and income inequality.

Obesity is a classic moral crusade whose real purpose is to inflate the sense of moral superiority of a particular elite. With the moral codes of sex and drugs having been dismantled by that same elite, obesity is one of the few remaining class signifiers, aside from cigarettes, that it's safe to hold a moral crusade about.

The War on Fat echoes the same old obsessions of Prohibitionism, a paranoid concern about the inability of the lower classes to care for themselves that verges on bigotry, an imaginary crisis blown out of all proportion in order to justify abuses of power and the self-congratulatory superiority lurking behind the curtain.

Their obesity concern trolling is a combination of classism and nanny statism that brings to mind the days when their ideological forebears thought that the way to deal with the poor was to sterilize those who seemed less capable than the rest to improve the breed. The breed being culled while the elites try to teach their less evolved cousins to survive by eating their arugula.

Finding moral failings in a manufactured underclass justifies endless abuses of power by demonstrating the inferiority and unfitness of those below. Obesity fits into that same template.

The solutions never work. Michelle Obama's botched school lunch program and ObamaCare lawsuits over fitness rewards once again show that the technocratic nanny state can never achieve the goals of the moral crusade. But slimming down isn't really the goal. Bloomberg's soda ban wasn't a serious solution. It was an expression of disdain and most of those on the receiving end understood that.

Barack and Michelle Obama lecture on food while gorging themselves at banquets. The lecture is the point. Cutting calories isn't. It's easier to oppress those who are manifestly inferior. Every elite needs these hypocritical justifications of their own superiority. The nanny state is not an act of concern.

It's an act of contempt.

The nanny state is built on a technocratic confidence in the ability to create one size fits all solutions, overlaying that on a map of the current medical wisdom leads to the creation of single standards, which often have less to do with health than they do with the status symbols of the leisure class. 19th century popularized medicine created so many of these fads that some of them are still around today. The 20th century created even more of them. And the 21st century is only getting started.

Death though is not only inevitable, but it cannot be dodged with a one size fits all standard. Fitness guru Jim Fixx who helped kickstart the running craze died in his early fifties of a heart attack. Fixx had quit smoking and lost weight, and still died at an early age. Jackie Gleason who spent his life looking like a walking health attack, smoking and drinking, outlived him by nearly twenty years.

Medicine is individual and the collectivization of medicine is a technocratic solution that leads to broad stroke solutions, like adding calories to menus and other rats in a maze tactics designed to modify human behavior on a national level. The targeting of fast food restaurants, public school meals and food stamps reeks of the same elitist arrogance that drives the nanny state.

The politicization of food by the elites of the left always comes down to class, no matter how it may be disguised in liberal colors. From exotic to locally grown, the trajectory of food politics follows the upselling of food prices  The only difference is that the dominance of the left has wrapped the added cost with no added value in their own politics. The more affordable food becomes, the more the left finds ways to add cost to food, without adding value.

But the politicization of food goes beyond the fair trade and locally grown fetishes of the politically correct elites, the more politics ends up on your plate, the more the elites are driven to involve everyone else in their food fights. What begins as a way of raising prices while diminishing value to assert wealth and privilege becomes imposed on everyone in the name of their political morality.

Once everyone else is paying more and getting less, then the classist left demands new ways to set its superior moral eating habits apart. Instead of everyone ending up with more food, everyone ends up with less.

Lefty culture practices conspicuous consumption, but the consumption has to be disguised with conspicuous political pieties. The food may cost twice as much, but it's locally grown on a farm run by handicapped union workers who visit Cuba to receive free health care or by the indigenous peoples of Tuba-Tuba with the proceeds going to a complete sonic library of their chants and ceremonies. It's a meaningfully meaningless hairshirt that disguises the consumption underneath.

Conspicuous consumption is now for the poor while conspicuous political consumption is for liberal elites. Al Gore may live in a mansion but he still has the carbon footprint of a mouse. The problem is the truck driver whose vehicular emissions are killing the planet. Whole Foods is just fine, but we need to do something about White Castle.

In a moment of horrifying tone deafness that makes Marie Antoinette seem enlightened, the left is cheering that fewer Americans are eating meat, without seeming to understand that it's because fewer Americans are able to afford it because of the left's economic policies.

What the left's food police can't accomplish with nudges and shaming, they can finish off with policies and regulations that raise the price of food or make it too difficult to sell. When the left fails to sell the public on conspicuous political consumption as a status symbol, it brings in the heavy bureaucratic artillery.

It isn't unusual for elites to use the legal system to enforce their own values on the general public, though it was the kind of thing that the universal franchise was supposed to put a leash on, but there is something grim about their growing preoccupation with the habits and mortality of the population. It's the kind of concern that has a habit of ending in eugenics and the more medicine is universalized, the easier it is to start cutting off access to medical treatment for those who haven't been nudged far enough in the right direction.

Social medicine politicizes food consumption and a globalized economy politicizes food production. And the politicized American plate has less on it and at a higher price. While the left obsessively pursues its mission of destroying fast food in the name of lowering socialized medicine costs, they are taking affordable and filling food off the shelves, as they have done with countless other products that they have targeted.

By the time the left was done with Russia, it had gone from a wheat producer to a wheat importer and many basic food staples were hard to come by even in a country filled with collective farms. Finding modern day examples of that isn't hard. We only have to look as far south as Venezuela to see empty store shelves under the weight of government food policies.

But one day that may be the local grocery store if the left gets its way.

SOURCE

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EterniTax.Con

Some taxpayers remain unaware that government-employee unions run the state of California, but the evidence is not hard to find. Sure enough, Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, fired the first salvo to make a temporary tax hike permanent. “Proposition 30 is the best thing to happen to public education and the economy in California in a generation,” the union boss rhapsodizes. Not only is there more money for “public education,” that is, teacher salaries, but “the state economy and budget have improved.” Nobody is fleeing the state, and happy days are here again. “Contrary to the anti-tax and anti-government rhetoric popular in some quarters, Proposition 30 is working, and has provided a road map for other states.” Therefore, “it is imperative that the state Legislature and the governor act to make it permanent.”

Tax_200Not so fast, responded Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association: “For those who don’t remember, Proposition 30, titled the Temporary Taxes to Save Education Act, imposed the highest income tax rate in America. It also bumped up the sales tax—a tax that hits the lower and middle classes particularly hard—to tops in the nation.” California’s unemployment rate is “third-highest in the nation,” its supplemental poverty ranking is the “worst in the country,” and statistics show that “upper income individuals are fleeing the state in response to high taxes.” And as Coupal notes, nobody know how many stuck around on the grounds that the temporary tax hikes would expire. Coupal also finds “compelling evidence that California today would be enjoying a bigger slice of the national economic recovery had we not passed Proposition 30 at all.”

This all makes sense, but the surge for permanence has precedent. In the 1970s, Californians voted for a temporary Coastal Commission. Under governor Jerry Brown, legislators quickly made it permanent. Current governor Jerry Brown recently signed legislation that gives the powerful, unelected Commission the power to bypass the courts and impose fines directly.

Taxpayers will find the same ruling-class ruse at work with Proposition 30. Pechthalt wants the governor and legislators to make the call, not the voters. They might vote down permanent higher taxes, as they did with Proposition 13, and the ruling class won’t stand for that. So Jerry Brown and the new crop of legislators will likely take their marching orders from a union boss, not the people.

SOURCE

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For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014



Torture report was just Democrat self-praise

Charles Krauthammer nails it pretty well below.  What I would add is that terrorism is unlikely to be successfully dealt with by normal police and judicial procedures. It is a category of behaviour all its own and it may need a level of ruthlessness similar to its own to be successfully countered.  We may need to fight fire with fire

The report by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding CIA interrogation essentially accuses the agency under George W. Bush of war criminality. Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein appears to offer some extenuation when she reminds us in the report’s preamble of the shock and “pervasive fear” felt after 9/11.

It’s a common theme (often echoed by President Obama): Amid panic and disorientation, we lost our moral compass and made awful judgments. The results are documented in the committee report. They must never happen again.

It’s a kind of temporary-insanity defense for the Bush administration. And it is not just unctuous condescension but hypocritical nonsense. In the aftermath of 9/11, there was nothing irrational about believing that a second attack was a serious possibility and therefore everything should be done to prevent it. Indeed, this was the considered opinion of the CIA, the administration, the congressional leadership and the American people.

Al-Qaeda had successfully mounted four major attacks on American targets in the previous three years. The pace was accelerating and the scale vastly increasing. The country then suffered a deadly anthrax attack of unknown origin. Al-Qaeda was known to be seeking weapons of mass destruction.

We were so blindsided that we established a 9/11 commission to find out why. And we knew next to nothing about the enemy: its methods, structure, intentions, plans. There was nothing morally deranged about deciding as a nation to do everything necessary to find out what we needed to prevent a repetition, or worse. As Feinstein said at the time, “We have to do some things that historically we have not wanted to do to protect ourselves.”

Nancy Pelosi, then ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, was briefed about the interrogation program, including the so-called torture techniques. As were the other intelligence committee leaders. “We understood what the CIA was doing,” wrote Porter Goss, Pelosi’s chairman on the House committee. “We gave the CIA our bipartisan support; we gave the CIA funding to carry out its activities.”

Democrat Jay Rockefeller, while the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was asked in 2003 about turning over Khalid Sheik Mohammed to countries known to torture. He replied: “I wouldn’t take anything off the table where he is concerned.”

There was no uproar about this open countenancing of torture-by-proxy. Which demonstrates not just the shamelessness of Democrats today denouncing practices to which, at the time and at the very least, they made no objection. It demonstrates also how near-consensual was the idea that our national emergency might require extraordinary measures.

This is not to say that in carrying out the program there weren’t abuses, excesses, mismanagement and appalling mistakes (such as the death in custody — unintended but still unforgivable — of two detainees). It is to say that the root-and-branch denunciation of the program as, in principle, unconscionable is not just hypocritical but ahistorical.

To make that case, to produce a prosecutorial brief so entirely and relentlessly one-sided, the committee report (written solely by Democrats) excluded any testimony from the people involved and variously accused. None. No interviews, no hearings, no statements.

The excuse offered by the committee is that a parallel Justice Department inquiry precluded committee interviews. Rubbish. That inquiry ended in 2012. It’s December 2014. Why didn’t they take testimony in the interval? Moreover, even during the Justice Department investigation, the three CIA directors and many other officials were exempt from any restrictions. Why weren’t they interviewed?

Answer: So that committee Democrats could make their indictment without contradiction. So they could declare, for example, the whole program to be a failure that yielded no important information — a conclusion denied by practically every major figure involved, including Democrat and former CIA director Leon Panetta; Obama’s current CIA director, John Brennan; and three other CIA directors (including a Clinton appointee).

Speaking from the Senate floor, Senate Intelligence Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) outlined the four categories of the 20 findings in a report released Tuesday regarding CIA interrogation techniques used between late 2001 and Jan. 2009. (AP)
Perhaps, say the critics, but we’ll never know whether less harsh interrogation would have sufficed.

So what was the Bush administration to do? Amid the smoking ruins of Ground Zero, conduct a controlled experiment in gentle interrogation and wait to see if we’d be hit again?

A nation attacked is not a laboratory for exquisite moral experiments. It’s a trust to be protected, by whatever means meet and fit the threat.

Accordingly, under the direction of the Bush administration and with the acquiescence of congressional leadership, the CIA conducted an uncontrolled experiment. It did everything it could, sometimes clumsily, sometimes cruelly, indeed, sometimes wrongly.

But successfully. It kept us safe

SOURCE

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Leftist hate again

I realize life is too short to read everything the Crazy Left disgorges from its white-hot core of resentful hatred, but Michael Tomasky’s latest rant at the Daily Beast is just too good to miss, especially if you are a) sane, b) an American and c) live in the Deep South. Reacting to Mary Landrieu’s crushing defeat in the Louisiana Senate runoff on Saturday, Tomasky rushed to his computer and penned this instant classic:

    "I don’t remember a much sadder sight in domestic politics in my lifetime than that of Mary Landrieu schlumpfing around these last few weeks trying to save a Senate seat that was obviously lost. It was like witnessing the last two weeks of the life of a blind and toothless dog you knew the vet was just itching to destroy. I know that sounds mean about her, but I don’t intend it that way. She did what she could and had, as far as I know, an honorable career. I do, however, intend it to sound mean about the reactionary, prejudice-infested place she comes from. A toothless dog is a figure of sympathy. A vet who takes pleasure in gassing it is not.

    And that is what Louisiana, and almost the entire South, has become. The victims of the particular form of euthanasia it enforces with such glee are tolerance, compassion, civic decency, trans-racial community, the crucial secular values on which this country was founded… I could keep this list going. But I think you get the idea. Practically the whole region has rejected nearly everything that’s good about this country and has become just one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment. A fact made even sadder because on the whole they’re such nice people! (I truly mean that.)

    With Landrieu’s departure, the Democrats will have no more senators from the Deep South, and I say good. Forget about it. Forget about the whole fetid place. Write it off. Let the GOP have it and run it and turn it into Free-Market Jesus Paradise. The Democrats don’t need it anyway."

And there you have it, the Narrative in full cry. Southerners — white Southerners — are crazed racists (for voting against a white candidate), nutcase Christians (for following their faith) and stump-toothed hillbillies who shop at Wal-Mart (for following their economic self-interest). In other words, they’re not a bit like Northeastern or West Coast liberals, and whose idea was it to give them the vote, anyway? Tomasky concludes his crying jag like this:

    "It’s lost. It’s gone. A different country. And maybe someday it really should be. I’ll save that for another column. Until that day comes, the Democratic Party shouldn’t bother trying. If they get no votes from the region, they will in turn owe it nothing, and in time the South, which is the biggest welfare moocher in the world in terms of the largesse it gets from the more advanced and innovative states, will be on its own, which is what Southerners always say they want anyway."

It may be worth pointing out to Tomasky that there is not a single Republican senator from the West Coast at the moment, and only two from New England. So what? Regional divisions are nothing new in these United States.

SOURCE

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When 'justice' trumps accuracy, journalism loses

by Jeff Jacoby

JOURNALISTS, SAYS Jorge Ramos, shouldn't make a fetish of accuracy and impartiality.  Speaking last month at the International Press Freedom Awards, Univision's influential news anchor told his audience that while he has "nothing against objectivity," journalism is meant to be wielded as "a weapon for a higher purpose: justice." To be sure, he said, it is important to get the facts right — five deaths should be reported as five, not six or seven. But "the best of journalism happens when we, purposely, stop pretending that we are neutral and recognize that we have a moral obligation to tell truth to power."

As it happens, Ramos delivered those remarks soon after the publication of Sabrina Erdely's 9,000-word story in Rolling Stone vividly describing the alleged gang rape of a freshman named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity party. Erdely had reportedly spent months researching the story, and its explosive impact was — at first — everything a tell-truth-to-power journalist could have wished: national attention, public outrage, campus protests, suspension of UVA's fraternities, and a new "zero-tolerance" policy on sexual assault.

But Rolling Stone's blockbuster has imploded, undone by independent reporting at The Washington Post that found glaring contradictions and irregularities with the story, and egregious failures in the way it was written and edited. Erdely, it turns out, had taken Jackie's horrific accusations on faith, never contacting the alleged rapists for a comment or response. In a rueful "Note to Our Readers," managing editor Will Dana writes: "[W]e have come to the conclusion … that the truth would have been better served by getting the other side of the story."

To a layman, that "conclusion" might seem so excruciatingly self-evident that Rolling Stone's debacle can only be explained as gross negligence, or a reckless disregard for the truth. But much of the journalistic priesthood holds to a different standard, one that elevates the higher truth of an overarching "narrative" — in this case, that a brutal and callous "rape culture" pervades American college campuses — above the mundane details of fact. Erdely had set out in search of a grim sexual-assault story, and settled on Jackie's account of being savaged by five men (or was it seven?) at a fraternity bash was just the vehicle she'd been looking for. Why get tangled in conflicting particulars?

"Maybe [Erdely] was too credulous," suggests longtime media critic Howard Kurtz in a piece on Rolling Stone's journalistic train wreck. "Along with her editors."

Or maybe this is what happens when newsrooms and journalism schools decide, like Jorge Ramos, that although they have "nothing against objectivity," their real aspiration is to use journalism "as a weapon for a higher purpose." Somehow it didn't come as a shock to learn that when Dana was invited to lecture at Middlebury College in 2006, his speech was titled: "A Defense of Biased Reporting."

Even after the UVA story began to collapse, voices were raised in defense of the narrative over mere fact.

"This is not to say that it does not matter whether or not Jackie's story is accurate," Julia Horowitz, an assistant managing editor at the University of Virginia's student newspaper, wrote in Politico. But "to let fact checking define the narrative would be a huge mistake."

Well, if the "narrative" is what matters most, checking the facts too closely can indeed be a huge mistake. Because facts, those stubborn things, have a tendency to undermine cherished narratives — particularly narratives grounded in emotionalism, memory, or ideology.

Rolling Stone's article on an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia — meant to illustrate the "rape culture" that supposedly pervades college campuses — turned out to be an egregious journalistic debacle.

It's a temptation to which journalists have always been susceptible. In the 1930s, to mention one notorious example, Walter Duranty recycled Soviet propaganda, assuring his New York Times readers that no mass murders were occurring under Stalin's humane and enlightened rule. Duranty is reviled today. But the willingness to subordinate a passion for accuracy to a supposedly higher passion for "justice" (or "equality" or "fairness" or "diversity" or "peace" or "the environment") persists.

Has the time come to give up on the ideal of objective, unbiased journalism? Would media bias openly acknowledged be an improvement over news media that only pretend not to take sides?

This much is clear: The public isn't deceived. Trust in the media has been drifting downward for years. According to Gallup, Americans' confidence that news is being reported "fully, accurately, and fairly" reached an all-time low this year. Would you be astonished to see that number sink even further next year? Me neither.

SOURCE

There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

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For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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Monday, December 15, 2014



America isn’t polarized about politics. It’s polarized about personal responsibility

Charles Murray below notes an immature and even infantile attitude that is common on the Left:  Anything unpleasant that happens to us is someone else's fault.  It's just another form of Leftist reality denial -- JR

That’s my working hypothesis anyway, prompted by a Twitter adventure a few days ago. Deluged with all the media back-and-forth about the sexual culture on campus, I tweeted the following two nights ago: “If you are drunk or high, to what degree can you say you are a victim when something bad happens to you? A question to take seriously.”

I was trying to get at the issue of victimhood, which takes the following general form: when we do stupid things that are within our control, to what degree are we obliged to say to ourselves, “That was really stupid of me” when we don’t like the outcome? The outcome could be waking up in a strange bed with someone you don’t know after passing out the night before. It could also be getting fired for a mistake that doesn’t seem bad enough to warrant getting fired—but you also know you were goofing off. The outcome could be your abandonment by a spouse for no obvious reason, but you also know you didn’t put enough effort into the marriage.

That was my topic. Almost nobody got it.  Fifteen minutes after I posted the tweet, I already had dozens of replies. Within a few hours, I had hundreds, perhaps thousands, if you include all the retweets. Here’s a sampling:

“Good to know, Chuck. So you’re giving anyone permission to assault you if they see you when you’re drunk?”

“I hope Charles lets us know next time he has a few drinks so that I can take a good whack at him.”

“Do you think it should be legal to murder drunk people? A question to take seriously.”

“Sooo, are you condoning taking advantage of people who are drunk & high? Is it OK to take their wallets too? How about kidneys?”

“So if have a few drinks in my house and a tree smashes my roof, it’s my fault? That’s where this logic is going.”

And then there was the discussant who looked on the bright side: “Some of the replies to Charles Murray’s horrific ignorant tweet are pretty great. May be hope for humanity yet, based on the response.”

I’ve omitted the more creative and unprintable replies, but you get the drift. Few of the replies responded to the point of the tweet. We’re not talking about a 60–40 split, but more like 99–1. And, of course, you guessed it: it didn’t cross my mind (though it should have; stupid of me; shouldn’t tweet after I’ve had a martini) that I was implying aggressors have the right to take advantage of people who are drunk or high.

I’m not trying to infer what proportions of the people who saw my tweet did and didn’t notice what it was about. These were Twitter replies, not a Gallup Poll. But the experience did add to my recent preoccupation with the thought that it’s not politics that polarizes us, but something deeper.

That deeper something lies in the personal characteristics that Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind” explicates so well. What my Twitter adventure clarified is the degree to which I think a single characteristic, assumption of personal responsibility, is key.

I have plenty of friends, not to mention relatives, who support Obamacare, want the US to take the lead in combating climate change, and think a living Constitution is just dandy. But my knowledge of them also leads me to believe that they share the indispensable virtue: their first instinct is to take responsibility for the consequences of their own actions. I don’t mean that they wouldn’t file a police complaint against someone who stole their wallet while they were drunk, but that they would also say to themselves “Wow, it was stupid to put myself in that situation.” They aren’t Randian individualists. They just don’t go through life expecting someone else to pick up after their mistakes.

I can overlook a lot of political disagreements with people who share that first instinct. It’s the same reason I retained a certain affection for Jesse Jackson far too long because in the 1970s I heard him tell high school students in inner-city schools, “It’s not your fault if someone knocks you down, but it’s your fault if you don’t get up.” And it’s the same reason I was so offended by President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” line—it wasn’t the politics of the thing, but its denial of responsibility for the consequences of our actions.

So that’s my working hypothesis: it’s not merely that politics is an epiphenomenon and that deeper personal qualities account for what we call political polarization, but that one specific dimension—our respective attitudes toward personal responsibility—accounts for a huge proportion of the polarization all by itself.

Through the end of the 19th century, it was not an issue on which Americans differed. Americans’ assumption of personal responsibility for their actions was a foundation stone of our civic culture, agreed upon by Federalists, Whigs, Republicans, and Democrats. We all bragged about it endlessly. Now we do disagree, and that disagreement surfaces in all sorts of public policies. But it’s not really the policies themselves that make so many Americans unable to abide the company of someone on the other side of the ideological divide.

Which leads to the point that that I have discussed elsewhere and needs contemplation: actually, there are lots of people on the other side of the political divide whose company we can not just abide but enjoy. The good guys and bad guys aren’t defined by liberal and conservative but how they as individuals see their own responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

SOURCE

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In Defense of A Troublesome Inheritance

Nicholas Wade points below to how scientifically vacant attacks on his book about race have been

Three attacks on my book A Troublesome Inheritance have appeared on The Huffington Post's blog this month. For readers puzzled by the stridency and personal animus of these compositions, I'd like to explain what is going on.

The issue is how best to sustain the fight against racism in light of new information from the human genome that bears on race.

My belief is that opposition to racism should be based on principle, not on science. If I oppose racism and discrimination as a matter of principle, I don't care what the science may say because I'll never change my position. As it happens, however, the genome gives no support to racism, although it does clearly show that race has a biological basis, just as common sense might suggest.

Many social scientists, on the other hand, have long based their opposition to racism on the assertion that there is no biological basis to race. I doubt they personally believe this and suspect that they oppose racism on principle, just as I do. But they believe that other people, less enlightened and intelligent than they, will not abandon racism unless told that everyone is identical beneath the skin. So whenever someone points out that race is obviously biological, defenders of the social science position respond with attacks of whatever vehemence is necessary to get the inconvenient truth-teller to shut up.

For many years this tactic has been surprisingly effective. It takes only a few vigilantes to cow the whole campus. Academic researchers won't touch the subject of human race for fear that their careers will be ruined. Only the most courageous will publicly declare that race has a biological basis. I witnessed the effects of this intimidation during the 10 years I was writing about the human genome for The New York Times. The understanding of recent human evolution has been seriously impeded, in my view, because if you can't study the genetics of race (a subject of no special interest in itself), you cannot explore the independent evolutionary histories of Africans, East Asians and Europeans.

The attacks on my book come from authors who espouse the social science position that there is no biological basis to race. It is because they are defending an ideological position with a counterfactual scientific basis that their language is so excessive. If you don't have the facts, pound the table. My three Huffington Post critics -- Jennifer Raff, AgustĂ­n Fuentes and Jonathan Marks -- are heavy on unsupported condemnations of the book, and less generous with specific evidence.

Despite their confident assertions that I have misrepresented the science, which I've been writing about for years in a major newspaper, none of these authors has any standing in statistical genetics, the relevant discipline. Raff is a postdoctoral student in genetics and anthropology. Fuentes and Marks are both anthropologists who, to judge by their webpages, do little primary research. Most of their recent publications are reviews or essays, many of them about race. Their academic reputations, not exactly outsize to begin with, might shrink substantially if their view that race had no biological basis were to be widely repudiated. Both therefore have a strong personal interest (though neither thought it worth declaring to the reader) in attempting to trash my book.

It would try the reader's patience to offer a point-by-point rebuttal of the three reviews, so I will address just the principal arguments raised by each. Let's start with Raff, who asserts, "Wade claims that the latest genomic findings actually support dividing humans into discrete races." In fact, I say the exact opposite, that the races are not and cannot be discrete or they would be different species, but it's easier to attack an invented statement.

The human genome points to the overriding unity of humankind. Everyone has the same set of genes, so far as is known. Genes come in the alternative versions known as alleles, so one might expect next that races would be demarcated by alleles. But even this is not the case. In fact, the races are not demarcated at all. They differ only in relative allele frequency, meaning that a given allele may be more common in one race than in another. How that translates into the familiar differences in physical appearance between human races is a matter I explain in my book.

Because of these characteristic differences in allele frequency, geneticists can analyze the genome of someone of mixed race -- an African American, say -- and assign each segment to an African or European ancestor, an exercise that would be impossible if races did not exist. Also because of differences in allele frequency, researchers analyzing human genetics around the world have found in surveys dating back to 1994 that people cluster in groups that coincide with their continent of origin.

Raff and Marks take issue with one of these surveys, Rosenberg et al. 2002, which used a computer program to analyze the clusters of genetic variation. The program doesn't know how many clusters there should be; it just groups its data into whatever target number of clusters it is given. When the assigned number of clusters is either greater or less than five, the results made no genetic or geographical sense. But when asked for five clusters, the program showed that everyone was assigned to their continent of origin. Raff and Marks seem to think that the preference for this result was wholly arbitrary and that any other number of clusters could have been favored just as logically. But the grouping of human genetic variation into five continent-based clusters is the most reasonable and is consistent with previous findings. As the senior author told me at the time, the Rosenberg study essentially confirmed the popular notion of race.

The chief point extractable from Fuentes' review is that since I don't say exactly many races there are, races can't exist. This is a misunderstanding of the nature of continuous variation. People may disagree on the number of colors there are, but that doesn't mean colors don't exist. Humans cluster into five continental groups or races, and within each race there are further subclusters. So the number of human races depends on the number of clusters one wishes to recognize. Contrary to Fuentes' belief, this has no bearing on whether or not races exist.

The wider issue arising from these three reviews is that the social science position on race that they represent is obscurantist, counterfactual and outdated. As I show in my book, understanding the nature of human racial variation lends no support to racism. But such understanding is essential for the simple reason that there is not one story of recent human evolution but at least five different stories, given that the populations on each continent have evolved largely independently of one another since the dispersal from Africa some 50,000 years ago.

By denying the existence of race, social scientists are intimidating biologists from pursuing this path. This is particularly exasperating given the fallacious nature of the belief that race must be denied if racism is to be quelled. The geneticist Theodore Dobzhansky observed, "People need not be identical twins to be equal before God, before the law, and in their rights to equality of opportunity." Unlike identical twins, we are not all clones. We exist as different races by virtue of our evolutionary histories. The recovery of this history is a legitimate subject of scientific inquiry, and from this advance of knowledge unimagined benefits may accrue.

SOURCE

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Ferguson Riots and looting encouraged by the Left remind Rabbi Lapin of Germany's Kristallnacht in the 1930s

.... When Hitler's National Socialists encouraged their followers to loot and destroy Jewish property.  The Left are fundamentally destructive

Scholar, best selling author, and talk radio host Rabbi Daniel Lapin said the rioting and looting in Ferguson, Mo., over the non-indictment of the police officer who shot Michael Brown were the result of the “dark pathology of liberalism” and, in its “delight in destruction,” echoed the “Kristallnacht in Germany.”

"When the liberal project, when the dark pathology of liberalism -- not so much a doctrine as a sick and twisted pathology -- manages to strip Judeo-Christian belief out of American society, congratulations guys, welcome to Ferguson, you succeeded,” said Rabbi Lapin on the Dec. 3 Glenn Beck Program.

Beck then said that, “Nobody seems in the press to notice that this is the Occupy Wall Street movement all over again.”

Lapin said, “Yes, it is, exactly the same people. The same people, same beliefs, same nihilism, same delight in destruction. You know, it's Kristallnacht in Germany.”

Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, occurred on Nov. 9-19, 1938, in Germany and Austria when Nazi strormtroopers went through numerous cities and towns smashing the windows of Jewish-owned stores and synagogues, while the government police authorities did not intervene.

SOURCE

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For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)

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